Theater review: The Last Romance

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Photo courtesy Phoenix Theatre

By Joe DiPietro
Directed by Eric Lewis
The Phoenix Theatre
February 10 – March 5, 2017

Review by Doug Gochanour

Multi-reminiscing may become the multi-tasking of old age

Finding “Love,” is one of those better late than never things. Ralph Bellini (Michael McFadden), who once aspired to be an opera singer, meanders into a park where Carol Reynolds (Melanie Calderwood) is coincidentally walking her Chihuahua, Peaches. Propinquity is at work here, setting them up for the chemistry they would soon experience.

Carol is a former executive secretary. She is elegantly dressed, attractive, but appears not to be interested in either Ralph or opera. Some people love opera. On the other extreme, you find someone like writer Dave Barry, who quipped, “I would rather undergo a vasectomy via Weed Whacker than attend an opera.” So, Ralph’s amorous pursuit of Carol would be a challenge. By the way, Ralph is 80 years old and Carol is 79.

Adding to the complicated comedy mix is Ralph’s bitter and jealous sister, Rose (Susan Connors). Rose continues to hope for the return of a husband who left her 22 years prior. Her Catholic faith has prevented her from granting him a divorce. Rose seems rather desperate to hold on to her brother. She comes to the park to call Ralph home for supper. Will he choose Rose’s veal scallopini over chatting with the charming Carol?

Playwright DiPietro penned the second longest running off-Broadway musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. He also employs music in this production. Ralph’s younger self is present, beautifully performed by Griffin Price. Ralph’s past follows him, literally, sometimes walking quietly about the stage, then singing opera. When Ralph describes his Met audition, this former Ralph offers us Silvio’s Aria from I Pagliacci.

The discussions that Ralph has with Carol seem to gradually melt away her resistance. The Oxytocin levels rise to the occasion. They share memories and alternative memories. We also may have had recollections of past events that did not exactly happen, at least not quite as we remembered. Both Ralph and Carol conveniently leave out several important life details. What can possibly go wrong?

Everything about this production is excellent. The actors, costumes, set, direction, sound and lighting are all superb. It could even provide a Valentine season treat to enjoy this play together with a special someone.

We each make choices about how, and with whom we share a portion of our precious allotted time. The Last Romance, with its very amusing, yet sometimes very serious dialogue, serves to remind us to make wise choices, and enjoy them thoroughly. It will help us get through those times when life gets in the way of living.

The Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave, Edmonds 98020. 206-533-2000. Two performance have sold out and ticket prices have been slashed for the others - $10. Buy tickets here.


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